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AP PHOTOS: Lunar New Year in the Philippines draws crowds to one of the world's oldest Chinatowns

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Crowds are flocking to Chinatown in the Philippine capital to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune.

Still recovering from the pandemic years and struggling amid global economic concerns, Chinese restaurants and shops in the area brimmed with festive lights and decor ahead of the Lunar New Year on Saturday, hoping to cash in on an influx of tourists.

Lamp posts in Manila's riverside Binondo commercial district, said to be one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world, feature dragon decor with tails curled around the poles. In a crowded mall, a huge dragon hangs over selfie-taking shoppers.

Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna lit a “money tree” and led a ceremony to mark what she and other officials said was the 430th founding anniversary of the Binondo district.

Dragon dancers performed to the beating of drums at the event, which was capped by fireworks.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, business establishments large and small were forced to shut down, and Chinatown resembled a ghost town. But the crowds returned in force this week, with traffic jams and parking lots crammed with SUVs.

Each year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle. The Year of the Wood Dragon, which local Chinese hope will bring abundance, follows the Year of the Rabbit.

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Associated Press journalist Joeal Calupitan contributed to this report.